Should Canada be unable to rein-in the coronavirus resurgence in the coming weeks, Dr. Theresa Tam says the country could see daily case counts of more than 10,000 by early December.
“Fires are burning in so many different areas and now is the time to get those under control,” she said Friday.
In mid-October, Canada had about 2,300 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed each day. By November, that number grew to above 4,000. On Thursday, it was just shy of hitting 5,000.
Tam — Canada’s top doctor — and public health officials have been sounding the alarm in recent weeks about the surge in infections permeating across much of the country. She said even now, at close to 5,000 cases a day, some parts of Canada are feeling a strain on their health care capacity.
Tam said if Canada “continues on the current pace,” the daily national virus case tally will climb by thousands.
“You can only imagine if we got to that level, that the pressure on the health care system would be huge,” she said. “We’ve got to stop the acceleration so we don’t see that [number] in the beginning of December… That’s only a few weeks away.”
Tam said the same culprits are to blame for the growing numbers.
“An important driver continues to be informal social gatherings, and activities both inside and outside our homes,” she said at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday.
“It’s in these more relaxed settings, such as family get-togethers, birthday parties, holiday celebrations and recreational activities that it is easier to forget and let our guard down on necessary precautions.”
Tam reiterated how “layering prevention practices is the most effective” strategy, including reducing physical contacts, wearing a mask, proper hand hygiene and staying at home or self-isolating if you are sick.
“This situation is worrisome,” Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said in French.
“It’s putting pressure on local resources and health care…. With the case numbers rising, ICUs becoming fuller, we can sort of see that worst-case scenario.”
Njoo pointed to the burden health-care systems in Alberta are facing while grappling with a second wave. Some elective surgeries have been canceled in Edmonton, leading dozens of physicians to speak out about the circumstances, demanding tighter restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he spoke with Canada’s premiers on Thursday night, where they discussed additional measures each will roll out in their respective region.
“We know that the optimal path is for us to work together,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.
“It is best if we move quickly and firmly to bring in measures that are going to keep people safe. We continue to impress upon individuals to reduce their contacts, avoid gatherings and do things we all know keep us safe.”
Trudeau and the doctors emphasized how “quick and firm” behaviour changes as individuals will help bend the curve.
He pressed Canadians to have patience.
“When we see cases flattening a bit, it’s not a reason to say, ‘Okay, great, we don’t have to stay tight anymore,’” Trudeau said. “We all want this to be over, but it’s not going to be over for many more months. How bad it gets in the coming months depends on us.”
Without it, the December holidays may be on the line, he said.
“Whether or not we’re able to do that depends entirely on us doing what we each need to do.”
–With files from the Canadian Press
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